Judge rules in favor of Verizon, cell tower to be built in Appleton

The site of a proposed Verizon cell tower, as seen on June 14th, 2017. (WLUK/Alexa Santos)

APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- A heavily debated Verizon cell tower will go up in Appleton.

A judge ruled in favor of the company last week.

But the City of Appleton, and nearby neighbors are not happy with that decision.

"It just doesn't belong there," Emory Laffin, a nearby resident, said.

Neighbors are disappointed with a judge's decision to allow the company to build.

"At the end of the day, nobody should be allowed to build a cell tower that close to a residential area," Laffin said.

The City of Appleton tried to stop it. The common council denied the permit for constructing the tower, because of concerns from neighbors about safety, and loss in property values.

"They came forward and laid out their case, and it was a pretty powerful case. So council said 'No, we'll see what happens, we'll take our chances," Mayor Tim Hanna said.

In August, Verizon sued the city over its decision. Outagamie County Judge Nancy Krueger ruled in favor of Verizon's claims that Appleton didn't provide enough evidence to support the permit denial, and those grounds are not valid for denying a permit.

"We're definitely pleased with the outcome," Verizon spokesman Steve Van Dinter said. "For us it came down to public safety."

Verizon says it wanted to fill in gaps in coverage in the Appleton area, and also make sure people could use their phones in case of an emergency.

"It's never our first choice to put it right smack dab in the middle of a residential area, but our network engineers run a ton of tests to see where we could place a cell site to meet the needs that we need to," Van Dinter said.

A Wisconsin state statute passed in 2013 took away local government's ability to control the placement of cell towers.

Mayor Hanna says he and other municipalities would like to see a change.

"There's got to be some middle ground. There are legislators who see that, and want to propose some changes. I'm hoping those will move forward maybe after the budget is finished," Hanna said.

The city will not appeal the case, but hopes future situations like this are avoided.

Verizon says while most cell towers are completed in about two years, there is not an exact timeline for this tower, because the judge's decision is so recent.

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